Homing tasks and distance matching tasks reveal different types of perceptual variables associated with perceiving self-motion during over-ground locomotion

Steven J. Harrison, Nicholas Reynolds, Brandon Bishoff, Nicholas Stergiou, Eliah White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Self-motion perception refers to the ability to perceive how the body is moving through the environment. Perception of self-motion has been shown to depend upon the locomotor action patterns used to move the body through the environment. Two separate lines of enquiry have led to the establishment of two distinct theories regarding this effect. One theory has proposed that distances travelled during locomotion are perceived via higher order perceptual variables detected by the haptic perceptual system. This theory proposes that two higher order haptic perceptual variables exist, and that the implication of one of these variables depends upon the type of gait pattern that is used. A second theory proposes that self-motion is perceived via a higher order perceptual variable termed multimodally specified energy expenditure (MSEE). This theory proposes that the effect of locomotor actions patterns upon self-motion perception is related to changes in the metabolic cost of locomotion per unit of perceptually specified traversed distance. Here, we test the hypothesis that the development of these distinct theories is the result of different choices in methodology. The theory of gait type has been developed based largely on the results of homing tasks, whereas the effect of MSEE has been developed based on the results of distance matching tasks. Here we test the hypothesis that the seemly innocuous change in experimental design from using a homing task to using a distance matching task changes the type of perceptual variables implicated in self-motion perception. To test this hypothesis, we closely replicated a recent study of the effect of gait type in all details bar one—we investigated a distance matching task rather than a homing task. As hypothesized, this change yielded results consistent with the predictions of MSEE, and distinct from gait type. We further show that, unlike the effect of gait type, the effect of MSEE is unaffected by the availability of vision. In sum, our findings support the existence of two distinct types of higher order perceptual variables in self-motion perception. We discuss the roles of these two types of perceptual variables in supporting effective human wayfinding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1257-1266
Number of pages10
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2022


  • Distance perception
  • Haptic perceptual system
  • Homing
  • Odometry
  • Self-motion
  • Visual perceptual system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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